How we got here
Thankfully, playing cricket today using all the latest protection is as safe as it has ever has been. Sadly the majority of safety related developments in both design and regulation, across industries, only take big pioneering steps towards improvement after human tragedy. And cricket head protections is no exception. Cricket helmet protection design had paused for over a decade until a bout of high profile professionals were injured in the same manner, one to the point of ending his career, by being hit in the face through the gap between the helmet peak and the grill. Many suggested the high demand and expectations for runs in the modern game were forcing players to attack short deliveries face-on, when previously they may have been more evasive. Although the regulation of helmets at the time was based on the effectiveness of a simple drop test, Masuri (the leading cricket helmet manufacturer) took it upon themselves to produce new designs and test them based on face targeted projectile trials. Their research and development not only prodigiously improved helmet design and safety but also induced an overdue upgrade to the regulations, standards and testing of all cricket helmets.
Cricket Helmet Regulation changes
Current regulation now requires all helmets to prevent a cricket ball from entering through the helmet peak and grill at set speeds. With separate testing for both junior sized (41/3oz) and senior sized (51/2oz) cricket balls. To obtain this, a minimum requirement has been set that all helmets now produced for sale must have a fixed, non-adjustable grill. Consequently this has reduced the space to see through by a few centimetres at best and for first time wearers it can take some getting used to.
The PCA and ECB have now made it compulsory for all professional cricketers to wear a helmet when batting and all level players under 18 years old to wear them when batting. Wicket keepers must wear one when standing up to the stumps along with any fielders within 8yards of the batsman’s middle stump. There are also plans to expand the requirement to all batsmen regardless of age and playing level, so if you aren’t one for wearing a helmet now would be a good time to get used to it.
Although it’s not compulsory for amateur players to wear ‘new’ helmets that meet the new construction regulation, in the first few weeks of the 2016 County season the ECB enforced a further rule stipulating that all professional player must wear helmets that have non-adjustable grills. Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott were amongst the few that were reluctant to make the change but their initial aversions were found misplaced as both went on to score centuries within days of making the switch. Reassuringly during the very same game, Sussex opener Chris Nash was hit with a short ball between peak and grill. He claiming that if he had been wearing the old style then he was sure the ball would have gone through to break his nose. Nash further crediting the new Masuri helmet design and regulations that enabled him to avoid a potentially career ending injury.
How to choose your next helmet
From the range of legal helmets available on the market, the best place to start is with the price. The large variation in protective capacity and technologies incorporated in new helmets are reflected in the prices, targeted towards your playing standard.. If you are only a few tiers away from county level and come up against some seriously quick bowling of 80mph plus then opt for those that the professionals wear, such as the Masuri Elite. If you are almost certain that you will not face or be attempting to pull deliveries exceeding 80mph, then you can be comfortable in the likes of the Masuri Test or cheaper alternatives. Note: Not all helmets have been tested with both junior and senior sizes balls. So if you are a junior or a parent of one that plays with both then make sure that the helmet model you choose has been tested against the smaller junior balls as well as the senior ball size. Below is a list of the helmets that have passed the testing and with which ball sizes;
HELMETS TESTED AGAINST BOTH MEN’S & JUNIOR BALLS
Gunn & Moore - Icon Geo Senior
Gray-Nicolls - Atomic Helmet; Test Opener Helmet; Omega XRD Helmet
Masuri - Vision Series Elite Titanium; Vision Series Elite Steel; Vision Series Test Titanium; Vision Series Test Steel.
HELMETS TESTED AGAINST JUNIOR BALLS ONLY
Gunn & Moore - Icon Geo Junior; Purist Geo Junior
Masuri - Vision Series Club Boys; Vision Series Club Youths
HELMETS TESTED AGAINST MEN’S SENIOR BALLS ONLY
Gunn & Moore - Icon Geo Senior Large; Icon Geo Senior Small
Masuri - Vision Series Club Senior
Finding the right size
If your helmet doesn’t fit just right then as well as hindering your batting capabilities it won’t be able to offer you its full protective benefits either. So simply measure around your head with a soft tape measure, starting from the centre of your forehead just above the eyebrows and go around your head just above both ears until you get back to where you started. Note this circumference measurement in centimetres and you will be able to match it to the sizes noted in the size guide on each helmet product page.
Steel or Titanium?
You may have noticed that some cricket helmet models come with the option of either Steel or Titanium grills. The titanium option is available not for any addition protection purposes but simply as a lightweight alternative. The titanium alloy used is around 45% lighter than its steel counterpart, so if you are expecting to wear your helmet for long periods of time then you may find the upgrade could prove to be a more comfortable option.
Masuri – The professional choice
Although other brands such as Gray-Nicolls and Gunn & Moore have improved their helmets considerably of late, Masuri is still the most popular brand worn by the vast majority of professional cricketers; and for good reason. Their three main protection systems incorporate more technologies and higher impact absorbing material and designs than any others.
Their unique flagship technology is designed to offer maximum face-on protection and is utilised exclusively in their top model, the Vision Series Elite Helmet. It’s a simply yet revolutionary dual bar Eye-Line grille system design that produces unrivalled protection to that region of the helmet by utilising a secondary top-bar in the grille to prevent the ball from penetrating the helmet. This secondary bar is positioned just below and in front of the primary bar so that it’s hidden from the wearer’s line of sight and thus retains optimal visibility. If you are playing at a high standard and likely to face and take-on some seriously quick bowling then this feature and model is a must have item.
Much like a motorbike helmet, Masuri also use a Twin Shell protection system in their Elite and Test helmet models. It contains multiple layers of high energy absorbing crushable foam encased between inner and outer impact dispersing shells- offering exceptional protection from glancing and direct impacts to the upper sections of the helmet.
The third and final major protective technology that features throughout Masuri’s Vision Series helmet range, is the Halo system. It’s another unique means of reinforcing the strength of the helmet, which it does by forming a rigid supportive structure in the shape of sun-visor to further reducing the risk of a ball making its way between grille and peak and into the batsmen’s face.